13 October 1995

Mill-and-mixing his own means a fiver saved for every pig

In the first of a series on feeding pigs for profit, Jonathan Riley reports on home mill-and-mixing

MILLING and mixing his own pig rations is saving one Cheshire farmer up to £5 a pig in feed costs.

Sam Williamss 202ha (500-acre) Netherton Farm, Frodsham, Cheshire, comprises 186ha (460 acres) arable with 16ha (40 acres) for his 150 outdoor sows.

Their progeny are supplemented with 10,000 pigs a year bought-in for rearing on one of two separate sites.

"Originally we had a beef enterprise but expanded the pig herd and converted beef finishing buildings to pig housing," says Mr Williams. "We were already milling and mixing on the first site but chose to buy compound feed for the extra pigs on the new site."

Feeding with compounds cost 41p/kg liveweight gain, whereas with mill and mixing costs were about 33p/kg lwg, with a feed conversion ratio of 3:1.

"Because of this difference we stopped feeding compounds after only 12 months, and with advice from ADAS at Crewe we installed a second mill-and-mix unit," he says.

Machinery and equipment cost about £17,000, plus £2000 to install it. Outside hoppers for the storage of straights, hoppers for ground wheat and barley, and five augers were purchased new. But costs were minimised by buying a mixer, hoppers, and a grinder/hammer mill, secondhand, and by making use of feed bins which had been used to store compound feed.

The mill was put into the silage building, which needed strengthening before the unit could operate. Augers and a batch control system were then installed.

"The batch control system is linked to three load cells under the mixer. This enables us to measure each ingredient to the kilo as it is augered in from a bin," says Mr Williams. "Once the ingredient has reached the pre-set inclusion rate, the control system switches off the auger and then starts the auger for the next ingredient."

Rations are batch mixed in 1t loads into hoppers, and a single man is all that is needed to operate the unit for about two hours a day. "Apart from an occasional check, once the system is started that man is free to carry out other jobs, so labour costs are low," he says.

Electricity use for the unit costs about £2000 a year or about £1/t of feed produced.

Augers are used to deliver feed to pigs in the finishing houses, which are fed automatically three times a day.

Rations for pigs over 50kg are mixed with whey.

"Whey is cheap in Cheshire because of the high number of dairy farmers in the county. We have 25,000-litre loads delivered 25 times a month at a cost of £100 a load," says Mr Williams.

As well as advising on setting up the operation, ADAS is involved with choice and inclusion rates of various feed ingredients for the farm.

Because the farm is close to Liverpool, prices for wheat feed (thirds), rape and soya are also low. Brazilian soya is bought forward at a cost of about £130/t, thirds at £92/t, rape at £89/t and high protein soya £154/t. Fishmeal and a fat premix are purchased-in bags.

"I can buy a lorry load of an ingredient as cheaply as the feed firms, as long as I fill the lorry," he says.

Of the 1200t of cereals required to feed the pigs for a year, 900t are produced on the farm. Much of the 300t shortfall is bought from local farms by the trailer load.

"We have considered buying cereals forward to reduce costs further but we have not got the storage space. Also, storing feedstuffs may be subject to tighter regulations in the future to prevent birds and rodents contaminating pig feed with salmonella," says Mr Williams.